Friday, October 27, 2017

"True Identity" by John C. Majors

While aimed at teenagers and young adults, this book offers solid life advice for people of all ages.  There are sections on family, friends, relationship, spiritual growth, and even career paths.  The author focuses on giving the reader the independence to make their own life choices wisely.  Yes, there are plenty of suggestions for the best way to live, but that is ultimately the reader's choice.  Plenty of examples are given along the way.  This book leans Christian but readers are not forced to believe in any one doctrine.  The author merely shares his perspective on his faith.  On other areas of life, there are common sense approaches.  When it comes to dating and relationships, the book highlights real good reasons for saving intimacy for marriage.  When it comes to alcohol, the book talks about the difference between a casual social drink and becoming an alcoholic.  When it comes to balancing spirituality with money, the book talks about the differences between missions and vocations.  There are even non-judgmental sections that cover emerging issues like homosexuality and transgender persons.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"The Awakening of HK Derryberry" by Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin

It is not often that a book makes me rethink my outlook on life or urges me to foster more compassion in my fellow man.  However, this is one of those books!  Mr. Bradford is an elderly gentleman who befriends a blind handicapped boy one day.  The man spots the boy in a chicken restaurant--alone, in a corner, and seemingly bored.  With plenty of time on his hands and a gentle tugging of the heart, the man begins a friendship that morphs into more of a father-son relationship.  Through Mr. Bradford, HK Derryberry becomes famous, rides airplanes, rides boats, visits football players, speaks with CEOs, and more.  What amazes me most from this book is the remarkable charisma HK has, as well as his unquenchable joy in life.  Despite his physical disabilities, his financially difficult upbringing, and his lack of a father / mother in his life, he perseveres.  My review words can not do this book justice.  Read it for yourself.  You will be glad you did.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"In the Middle of the Mess" by Sheila Walsh

While the cover features a broken teacup and the title boasts words like "mess" and "broken life", I was not expected for how intense this book would be.  Readers learn firsthand about the author's father who committed suicide after he escaped from a mental hospital.  They also learn about the author's mother and how her death affected those around her; the mother's sad case of Alzheimer's is detailed.  Readers also learn about the author's nervous breakdown, thoughts of suicide, and mental institution visits.  Yes, there are triumphant areas of this book where the author speaks about God and quotes Bible verses.  This book has Christian undertones as there are many references to Jesus.  There is definitely hope in this story, and I'm sure many readers will respect how far Walsh has come in her own personal journey of healing.  However, given how depressing the majority of this book is, I definitely want to warn readers.  This is not a book to make you smile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Brave Beauty" by Lynn Cowell

Written like a devotional journal, this book is full of 100 prompts for young girls.  The mini-chapters are no more than a few pages and include journal prompts, short quizzes, and guided prayers.  This book has strong Christian undertones as it has many "dear Jesus" prayers.  Many of the anecdotal stories seem to come from middle school or relate to pre-teens.  While readers of any age can enjoy this book, it is geared towards females as opposed to males.  Sections of the book have to do with beauty, confidence, being loved, and being confident.  This book is empowering for young girls.  They will learn from the Bible and even from the author's own life.  Stories unfold to show how one can be brave and beautiful.   

Friday, October 13, 2017

"The Master's Mind" by Lance Hahn

The general premise behind this book is how to overcome anxiety and negativity with strength and positivity.  The author is a preacher and not a psychologist, so the techniques explained are very set in religion as opposed to psychiatry.  While I personally felt the book was a bit too religious and not psychological enough, I can see how certain audiences would really appreciate this read.  Devout Christians would enjoy this book as there are copious references to Jesus.  Hahn discusses how Jesus overcame negative thoughts and focused on his purpose in life.  Key ideas that stuck with me were how many people choose to believe lies about themselves and worry for hours about events which will likely never occur.  More trust in a higher power and emphasis on prayer / meditation is a good idea for relieving anxiety.  Family problems and addictions were also briefly discussed.  I should note that this book is not anti-medicine since the author himself states how he has been on psychiatric drugs since the late 1990s.  My favorite aspect of this book was how Hahn challenged the notion that religious people have no anxieties.  Religious people, like all other people, need to reshape their thoughts so they add to life, not detract from it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Buechner Books

“The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life” by Frederick Buechner

This book is small but packs a powerful punch.  With just under 10 chapters and a spine width of less than an inch, the book can easily fit into a backpack or purse.  Each essay / lecture included shines light on living in the NOW.  There is not so much a story in the sense of fiction but rather separate chapters all different yet all pointing the reader in the same direction.  While a religious man, Buechner does not shy away from his doubts, insecurities, and faith crises.  He even talks about his complicated family life, including his father’s suicide.  There is not any sort of preaching in these pages, even when Buechner speaks of his Christian religion.  Rather, the letters tell the story of a man at the end of his life.  He paints the story of his life in bits and pieces, looking back at all that was and all that could be.  Very philosophical and introspective, this book is difficult to write a review for.  However, I will say that while this book is insightful and moving, it is also serious.  I recommend it for meditation and not a simple beach read.  The essays will not make you sad, but they will not make you happy.  You will come to ask yourself what you’ve been ignoring and how you can better pay attention to the hourglass of time that is constantly slipping out from under your feet.

“A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory" by Frederick Buechner

To be honest, I did not enjoy this book as much as the other one.  While it is impeccably written and poignantly powerful, it was simply too depressing for me.  Much of the book dealt with the author's troubled childhood.  Many more pages spoke about death and losing friends / loved ones.  There is much insight on the afterlife, how to cope with grief, and how to handle one's past.  All of these things are practical and good to visit now and again.  However, for someone not in a state of grief, it is very hard to keep turning the pages.